“It’s not about what I want, it’s about what’s fair!” -Harvey Dent, The Dark Knight
Today, it was announced that a Japanese branch for Wargaming.net would be opened, and that there would be collaboration between the developers of World of Tanks and the producers of Girls und Panzer. Said collaboration is presently of an unknown nature. The Japanese servers for World of Tanks will officially launch on September 5, 2013, and with it, the release of the Chi Nu Kai tank. Wargaming.net’s World of Tanks is an online multiplayer game that was released in 2010 and is built around player-versus-player team games, wherein the player operates an armoured vehicle and aims to complete various team-driven objectives. The various game types include standard elimination and capture missions, as well as clan wars. World of Tanks is one of the more popular multiplayer games around, assisted by the fact that it follows a free-to-play model. All of these attributes mean that in theory, it would be quite simple to sign up, grab a client and begin laying waste to the numerous Girls und Panzer fans out there. While the presence of numerous Girls und Panzer fans have made it tempting for me to step in and humble them, there are no screenshots of my victories here. This has arisen owing to a two factors that gives World of Tanks a steeper learning curve compared to other games.
- No one should be unfamiliar with Yukari Akiyama (above) by this point: her enthusiasm for tanks is endearing, but unlike the Anteater team, I do not believe she is stated to play online tank games in-universe.
There is a paradigm that determines how steep the learning curve to any given game is: I’ve named this as the “Stock Paradigm”, which states that a game is accessible to new players if it is possible for a player to, using basic equipment and skills exclusively, accomplish their in-game objectives appropriate to their level in the game. In a first-person shooter, this means that any weapon can be used to effectively make kills, while in an RPG game, players should be able to complete quests at their level using level-appropriate gear and in-game skills. Thus, a player should hypothetically be able to perform well on the virtue of their skills, rather than become dependent on higher-tier equipment to become successful. One of the best examples is Team Fortress 2, where the stock loadout is sufficient to take down any other player. The basic weapons aren’t weaker or more ineffective, they’re simply balanced; the unlockable weapons simply have particular attributes that make it more suited for a particular style of gameplay, and appropriately, have caveats to prevent them from being overpowered. For instance, the Liberty Launcher (a rocket launcher) that fires faster rockets, but holds less ammunition, and the Brass Beast (a mini-gun) that deals 20% more damage will also take twice as long to spin-up time, as well as reducing the operator’s movement by 60%. It is entirely possible to defeat any player using the stock weapons, meaning that there is no need to unlock anything to make the game easier per se.
- For reference, these screenshots are from Crysis. While I chose not to here, it is possible to disembark from the tank, and, making extensive use of missile launchers, C4 charges and cloak mode, sneaking around the battlefield and wiping out armour that way. Imagine the chaos caused by such an implementation in World of Tanks.
- I have chosen not to play World of Tanks for the present because the game requires a considerable investment to obtain sufficiently good weapons. I don’t have 3 hours a day and six of seven days a week to dedicate to farming XP and gold. That time belongs to rather more productive things, like work and drinking beer with my friends.
- My über-micro gives me supernatural performance in most games, However, I don’t have a particular wish to download the World of Tanks client again, so, in the interest of fairness, those interested in seeing my über-micro can meet me halfway and square off in Team Fortress 2. Like World of Tanks, it’s free-to-play, but more importantly, unlike World of Tanks, loadout and skill are independent.
- Dear Sumeragi “Daigensui” Akeiko: I’m sorry if the Nishizumi style was weak to begin with. I’m sorry I’m the better strategist because I studied Chinese methods. And I’m most definitely sorry that anyone using the Nishizumi style be wrecked if they ever were to use their methods in real life for any reason. Yes, this foreshadows one of my future posts.
Moreover, most multiplayer games online come with a server browser, allowing players to pick and choose which servers they want to enter for their games. This feature is especially important in games where there are levels; players are given a chance to play against players with similar time investments. With similar access to equipment and resources, players at a similar level will win and lose games based on skill (and sometimes luck), rather than how powerful their gear is. Tribes: Ascend is a textbook example of how to go about implementing this correctly. In the server browser, there is an option to sort active servers by server levels: players of a certain range of levels are permitted on certain servers, and if they are outside the server’s specified level range, the server simply rejects the connection. This approach allows players with a similar amount of experience in the game to play against each other- players who have been around longer are likely to be more familiar with the game mechanics and equipment. It follows that they would have an advantage over the new players. Should the new players constantly suffer defeat and level more slowly, their inclination to play the game will drop and they will eventually stop playing. The implementation of a level filter gives players a greater chance of getting used to the game and improve sufficiently to play alongside the senior players.
- Ami Chouno observes the battle between Saunders and Ooarai on her Type 10. As noted in a previous post, main battle tanks aren’t used in Panzerfahren because of their overwhelming performance in comparison to the tanks of the WWII-era: I could probably solo the entire Mädchen und Panzer clan with the Abrams M1A2, even if their entire team were equipped with the Panzer VIII Maus.
In World of Tanks, there is no server browser, so players looking to earn some money and get into the game would need to choose a random game and fight against players with better gear and experience. My first experience with World of Tanks involved being dealt a catastrophic kill around 15 seconds into the game by a player with a Tier 8 tank. With no means for new players to play specifically against players of their level, World of Tanks is remarkably frustrating: beginning players start with a small collection of Tier 1 armour, a category of tanks that is woefully inferior to the armour that is later unlocked. I could empty my entire reserve of shells against a higher-tier tank, only for the rounds to hit nothing but air (crews need to be trained, using the same in-game currency) or impact harmlessly against the enemy armour. Adding insult to injury, I just lost, so I don’t even have the money to buy new shells. While higher tier tanks stand a better chance against one another, World of Tanks cannot satisfy the Stock Paradigm, since beginning players are given weapons that are completely inadequate, precluding the possibility of even surviving over the course of a winning match. The lack of a server browser means an increased number of matches fought against higher-tier players, raising the learning curve and reducing the number of initial victories, making it hard to buy equipment. The stock equipment is essentially useless, so winning is not a possibility unless I am lucky enough to find a Tier 1-only server (which I will not be able to because there is no server browser). This cyclic dependency means that one either has to make an unreasonable time commitment and play in the hopes of earning enough gold to move ahead. Of course, there’s always the option of paying coin, but I imagine for most, that would rather defeat the purpose of free-to-play. For the present, I will be found in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim or Alan Wake, two of four games hauled from the Steam Summer Sale that are decidedly more fun to play. Aside from being immersive and having brilliant graphics, there’s a small bonus of not having overly-serious Girls und Panzer fans telling me that my strats violate the Nishizumi style.